Cumberland Gap by John Brian McCarthy / CC BY-SA 2.0
Tennessee is an amazing state that is filled with natural beauty. Landscape photographers can find mountains, rivers, forests, and plenty of waterfalls. On this page we’ll showcase some of the best places to photograph in Tennessee. The interactive map below shows the location of each spot mentioned on this page.
This page will continue to be a work in progress, so please feel free to leave a comment with your own suggestions of great places to photograph.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts more visitors than any other national park, and landscape photographers are able to capture amazing photos in any season. The park lies in Tennessee and North Carolina. On this page we’ll be looking at some of the best places within the Tennessee section of the park, but for a more detailed look at the park please see our Photography Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The most popular entrance to this east Tennessee park is from the town of Gatlinburg. There are a few main roads that run through the park, but to get the most out of your trip you will need to get off the road and onto the hiking trails. From the trails you can access waterfalls, peaks, and beautiful forests.
Clingmans Dome is right on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, and it is the highest peak in Tennessee. The top of Clingmans Dome has an observation tower that gives you a nice view in all directions. The view from the parking area at the base of the observation tower is also very good. Getting to Clingmans Dome is pretty easy. Clingmans Dome Road is about 7 miles long and takes you to the top. This road starts near Newfound Gap along Route 441, which is one of the major roads within the park.
Clingman’s Dome by Arun Kamaraj / CC BY-SA 2.0
Mount LeConte is the 3rd-highest peak in the park and is located near Gatlinburg. The LeConte Lodge is located high on the mountain and is a popular spot with hikers. There are several different trails that provide access to Mount LeConte.
Mount LeConte by Aviator31 / Public Domain
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is conveniently located near Gatlinburg and provides nice views from the road. This is a one-way loop (about 5 miles) on a winding, narrow mountain road. There are a few different hiking trails that originate from this road, and if you want to get the best photos you can take advantage of the hiking opportunities. Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls are two popular options.
Grotto Falls on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail by John Bule / CC BY 2.0
The Laurel Falls Trail is one of the most popular in the park. It is located off of Little River Road, only a few miles from the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center. You will hike about 1.3 miles to reach this 80-foot waterfall.
Laurel Falls by Michael Hicks / CC BY-ND 2.0
Cades Cove is a popular spot within the park. This valley was the home of settlers before the park existed, and many buildings still stand. You can visit a few homes, churches, and cemeteries. In addition to the history, Cades Cove provides great mountain views from the valley, as well as the possibility of seeing some wildlife. There is an 11-mile loop road that leads through Cades Cove. Along the road there are many places to stop, and a few trails that are accessible. Be aware that this loop road does get very crowded and traffic often moves quite slowly. You can get more details of the loop from this page.
Cade’s Cove by Lee Coursey / CC BY 2.0
Roan Mountain State Park
Roan Mountain State Park is located in northeastern Tennessee, about a 2.5 hour drive from the Gatlinburg entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This park offers plenty of opportunities to photograph mountain and forest landscape. Each June it hosts the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival, which is a favorite of many photographers
Roan Mountain State Park by Dallas Krentzel / CC BY 2.0
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Fall Creek Falls State Park is located about 65 miles north of Chattanooga. It is home to interesting rock formations and picturesque waterfalls, including the 250-foot Fall Creek Falls. The beautiful overlooks and collection of waterfalls make it the most popular state park in Tennessee and definitely a destination that you will want to visit.
Fall Creek Falls State Park by Michael Hicks / CC BY-ND 2.0
Rock Island State Park
Rock Island State Park is about 30 miles northwest of Fall Creek Falls State Park. The main attractions for photographers are Great Falls Gorge and Twin Falls. When the water level is high the gorge fills up and the cascading falls of Great Falls Gorge are not visible.
Rock Island State Park by Michael W. Neu / Public Domain
Burgess Falls State Park
Burgess Falls State Park is about 25 miles north of Rock Island State Park. This park is home to the namesake 130-foot waterfall and a surrounding gorge. Trails along the ridge of the gorge lead to the waterfall, as well as a views of a few other waterfalls.
Burgess Falls by Mountain Vacation Resorts / CC BY-SA 3.0
Big South Fork of the Cumberland River
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is located in northern Tennessee, as well as Kentucky. The 76-mile river is popular for whitewater canoeing and kayaking, but it’s also a great spot for photographers. You can capture photos of the river or explore the gorge for more opportunities. There are a few roads through the area that provide scenic overlooks, but much of the area will require hiking, biking, or boating to reach.
Big South Fork of the Cumberland River from the Honey Creek Overlook by ChristopherM / CC BY-SA 3.0
Honey Creek Trail
The Honey Creek Loop Trail is located within the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. It is a challenging 5-mile hike that should only be attempted by experienced hikers. However, if you are able and willing to hike the trail you will be rewarded with some amazing scenery.
Honey Creek Trail by Michael Hicks / CC BY-ND 2.0
Short Springs State Natural Area, Machine Falls
Located in southern Tennessee, about 75 miles northwest of Chattanooga, the Short Springs State Natural Area is home to the beautiful Machine Falls. There are a few different trails in the area, including this 1.6 mile loop that will get you to Machine Falls.
Machine Falls by Michael Hicks / CC BY-ND 2.0
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park includes parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia around a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains. While the area has historical significance as a passageway through the mountains, photographers will be more interested in the spectacular views. Skyland Road leads to Pinnacle Overlook, where you can catch a great view. There are also many trails that you can explore on foot.
Cumberland Gap by John Brian McCarthy / CC BY-SA 2.0
South Cumberland State Park
South Cumberland State Park includes several different sections that are located in 4 different counties in southern Tennessee. The park includes many miles of hiking trials, beautiful waterfalls, great mountain vistas, as well as a natural bridge.
Lower Greeter Falls, South Cumberland State Park by Michael Hicks / CC BY-ND 2.0
Cedars of Lebanon State Park
Cedars of Lebanon State Park is about 30 miles east of Nashville. There are 8 miles of hiking trails that will provide opportunities to photograph the forest.
Cedars of Lebanon State Park by Michael Hicks / CC BY-ND 2.0
Bledsoe Creek State Park
Bledsoe Creek State Park is in northern Tennessee, about 40 miles northeast of Nashville. This park along Old Hickory Lake provides nice forest and lake views that can be great for photographing. There are six miles of hiking trails for exploring the area on foot.
Bledsoe Creek State Park by Michael Hicks / CC BY-ND 2.0
Bald River Falls
Bald River Falls is within the Cherokee National Forest in southeastern Tennessee. This spectacular 90-foot waterfall can be accessed by Tellico River Road and is a must-see attraction if you are in the area.
Bald River Falls by Brian Stansberry / CC BY 3.0
Cummins Falls State Park
Cummins Falls State Park in northern Tennessee is home to a stunning gorge and waterfall. The 75-foot Cummins Falls is very picturesque, but can be a little challenging to reach. There are two different trails that lead to the falls (1 mile and 1.5 miles long) but both are steep in some places. However, the trail is worth the effort as you can get some great photos of the falls and gorge.
Cummins Falls State Park by Brenton Rogers / CC BY 2.0
Reelfoot Lake State Park is in northwestern Tennessee. This unique landscape include cypress forests and abundant wildlife. To get the best views you can hike on one of the trails or take a boat onto the lake. Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge is also adjacent to the lake. In January and February this area is home to thousands of bald eagles.
Reelfoot Lake © Jeremy Atherton, 2001 / CC BY-SA 2.5
The Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile National Scenic Byway the connects southeastern Tennessee with North Carolina. The road includes several different overlooks with amazing mountain and forest vistas.
Cherohala Skyway by Brian Stansberry / CC BY 3.0
Ruby Falls is a 145-foot underground waterfall in Chattanooga. This unique waterfall is a popular tourist attraction.
Ruby Falls by Jtesla16 / CC BY-SA 3.0
Signal Mountain, Walden Ridge
Signal Mountain, also known as Walden Ridge, is the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau. It is just north of Chattanooga. Nice river and mountain views are available.
Signal Mountain by Michael Hicks / CC BY-ND 2.0